Tuesday, September 12, 2006
The hidden dangers of jingle trucks
Beware the jingle truck. That's what we learned when Anderson, photographer Phil Littleton and I spent the day on patrol with members of the 10th Mountain Division on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

Jingle trucks are flat-bed vehicles about the size of a U-Haul truck, painted with intricate patterns and bright colors. They get their name from the thousands of chimes that dangle and ring from base of the vehicle whenever it moves.

The trucks come down from the high mountain passes that separate the two countries and have traditionally carried mostly firewood to sell local markets. But during these days of war, they're sometimes carrying something different -- U.S. troops have lately found smuggled rockets buried in the firewood.

The recent discoveries are prompting something of a new policy for the troops here. When units are on patrol, they stop and inspect nearly every jingle truck that passes.

It's really a striking sight -- young soldiers with M-16s and high-tech gear talking to talk to grizzled, bearded men traveling in their colorful trucks on old silk routes.

We stood by and watched as translators explained to drivers why they and their trucks were being searched. None of them seemed to mind. They climbed down from their cabs and emptied their pockets and were frisked. Their trucks sat idle as the wind rang the chimes and soldiers pulled back wood and looked for missiles.

Of the half dozen or so trucks we saw inspected today, none carried weapons. You can't fault the soldiers here for conducting the searches. They're sustaining casualties in war against a tough and clever enemy.

Some of them told us the hardest part about this war is not knowing who exactly is the enemy. The village elder who invited you into his home yesterday might shoot at you today, they said. You have to be aware of everything, even jingle trucks.
Posted By Charlie Moore, CNN Senior Producer: 3:56 PM ET
  35 Comments
This war on terror really is terrifying. We really can't tell who our enemies are and it seems as if the number of fronts we are fighting on is growing by the day. I suppose that is the purpose of terrorism, to make people afraid enough to stop functioning. Those soldiers have my heartfelt thanks for doing what they do! I have many students in my Global Studies class who plan to join the armed forces when they graduate. Many of them say it is because they feel strongly that the terrorists should not win.
As for all of you at AC 360- please stay safe!
Pamina
Posted By Anonymous Pamina, Pittsford, New York : 4:21 PM ET
Wow, jingle trucks have a different meaning now. When I was growing up, jingle truck meant the ice cream man was coming. What a different world. You guys are doing a great job!
Posted By Anonymous Barb Kozlowski,Phoenix AZ : 4:39 PM ET
Thank you for the colorful portrait of the jingle trucks... what an ironic picture it is. Would love to see pictures. Stay safe all of you!
Posted By Anonymous xtina - Chicago IL : 4:40 PM ET
Mr. Moore,
Geeze that sounds extremely dangerous... That would be horrible to live in a place where you never know what's going to happen next or never knowing who is your enemey. When you hear the jingles coming go the other way!:)
ya'll stay safe and God BLess~
JOANNA
PS can't wait to watch Anderson Cooper 360 tonight! che'yeah it's the best news show on:)
Posted By Anonymous Joanna Parker , Millsboro, DE : 4:48 PM ET
I guess it is not as sweet a sound as, say, an ice cream truck on a hot day.

BTW: What's up with wearing flak vests but no helmets? I really don't understand what seems to this civilian to be just vanity (although I admittedly have no military training whatsoever, so I could easily serve in the Bush admin as a military expert...oh, wait a minute, I have a genius-level IQ, so that probably disqualifies me). As someone who has worked with kids with traumatic brain injury, I just don't get this...

And even if your on-air reporters don't want to mess their hair (although a piece of shrapnel would certainly make them look pretty bad, pretty permanently), are your crew at least wearing them?

Speaking of safety, any updates on the insufficient armor and helmets with which we outfitted our troops? How many troops have died because they were not properly protected?

Stay safe.
Posted By Anonymous Norah, West Chester, PA : 4:52 PM ET
Hi Charlie-
War has become so strange. You never know where the enemy might be hiding. I believe this sick tactic began during the Viet Namn war. This surely negatively effects the minds of our soldiers. God help them. Our enemies have become cleverly corrupt and wicked. It was the great Albert Schweitzer who said, " Man is a clever animal who behaves like an inbecile." Stay safe 360 and beware of the "jingle bell rock!"
Posted By Anonymous Betty Ann, Nacogdoches TX : 4:53 PM ET
My Brother in Law is a member of the 10th mountain division and has spent the week with 360. He is a young newlywed with a niece and nephew who miss him dearly and look forward to his safe return. God Watch all of the soldiers young and old, and never forget our soldiers still in Afghanistan.
Posted By Anonymous Pieper Family; Liberty, Missouri : 4:58 PM ET
Charlie - just wondering...is there any sign of tunnels between the two countries?
Posted By Anonymous Nicki, Calgary, Alberta : 5:04 PM ET
Poor Charlie and crew...doesn't sound nearly as exciting as Nic's helicopter ride yesterday.

Looking forward to the report tonight.
Posted By Anonymous Jennifer, Kansas City, MO : 5:19 PM ET
Thank you for letting us at home know of another worry for our children in the Armed Forces in Afghanistan. When my son first went over there eight months ago, it was not the dangerous place that it is now. Thank you for informing the world and, most especially the people here in the US, of the war in Afghanistan and broadcasting from the FOB new the Pakistan border. It helps this proud Mom to see live video from the war zone where my son is stationed.
Posted By Anonymous Marijane, Seattle, WA : 5:23 PM ET
While reading this article it reminded me of when my brother came home from Viet Namn. He would say "they are your friends during the daylight hours, and your enemy at dark." He would also say " you never know who is your enemy or your friend." Why does this war remind me of another Viet Namn.
Posted By Anonymous Joyce, Rochester Minnesota : 5:27 PM ET
Hi Charlie, you guys find the most interesting things to write about. And in doing so put a whole new face on this war. We are seeing that things are notjust black and white - he's the enemy and he's not. Today the most innocent looking person be it adult or child can say hello one minute and strike you dead the next. Looking forward to the next installment, keep up the good work. And stay safe.
Posted By Anonymous Marcia, Warren Mi : 5:34 PM ET
We had the same problem in Viet Nam, not knowing really who the enemy was. They would work for us during the day, and fight us at night. Sure is confussing also how all of the leaders of these terrorist groups call for everyone of the civilians to blow themselves up and take out some Americans, but when they are confronted, they surrender.
Posted By Anonymous John , Dothan, Al : 5:39 PM ET
I am sure that every step you make in their country in dangerous. By the way, I was watching AC 360 last night and saw you guys going into that underground hole not knowing what was there or if it was booby trap. Can you get at least an engineer soldier before going in those places. Seriously!!!
Posted By Anonymous Johanne, Ontario, Canada : 5:58 PM ET
The real question I want answered is - how'd ya get poor Anderson out of that hole yesterday!! Thanks for the insight on the trucks, you never know these days who or what the enemy is, do you?
Posted By Anonymous kelly, san francisco : 6:15 PM ET
Charlie,

Well said, but it should be pointed out that 'jingle powers' can also be used for good instead of evil and there certainly is safety in numbers or, is that distraction? At any rate, it's a point that is not lost on the U.S. military, who sometimes employs those colorful monsters as a means of moving goodies without yelling, "Yoo-hoo, here I am!"

"The village elder who invited you into his home yesterday might shoot at you today..."

In that case, please make sure to only visit each person once!

Stay Kevlar Safe
Posted By Anonymous Tikka Madsen, Seattle, WA : 6:22 PM ET
Say "Hi" to my husband, Casey for me since you are at his base. Tell him his wife and son miss him like crazy.
Posted By Anonymous Debra & Nehemiah, Riverside Ca...atleast until Daddy comes home! : 11:16 PM ET
Hi Charlie,
I'm just glad our troops are suspicious of every vehicle, including those that jingle or jangle..They can't let their guard down for one moment..Thanks for the story, I'd never heard of the circus comes to town, jingle truck..Now I know..My thoughts and prayers go to the troops..Take Care
Posted By Anonymous Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif : 11:28 PM ET
I just wanted to say it is important that you are giving the war in Afghanistan much needed coverage.Once again it is obvious that the poor and weak are the most vulnerable when it comes to becoming breeding ground for all these problems.

Just an observation, I see reporters wearing their safety vest on and off during your broadcast. Shouldn't it be worn at all times when you are reporting from such extremely dangerous frontlines? I think the solders are geared up 24hrs a day for a reason and as you are all in the same environment just wondered at what point you make the decision not wear it...... ? safety first.
Posted By Anonymous Hanna, San Francisco, CA : 1:04 AM ET
enjoyed your afganistan "tour"----
wish you would visit the canadian
army in kandahar area...bet one of
them would buy you a tim hortons
coffee!!!
p.s. lots of canadians love you.
Posted By Anonymous edmonton alberta. : 2:08 AM ET
Charlie, Anderson and crew,
Please wear your helmet when you are going into war zone. You probably look as cool with the helmet, and surely safe. Be well.
Posted By Anonymous VL Doran, Somerville, MA : 8:27 AM ET
Heads up - The next the mode of transportation of illiciet cargo will probably be the "motorized rickshaws" that they use in that part of the world for taxi cabs. Just some advice from an experienced hand that traveled in that region in the 1980's.....
Posted By Anonymous Tim Shelest, Vernon, Arizona : 8:42 AM ET
Hey Charlie,

It is worst than I tought in Afghanistan. Could you talk about the Nato troops also? They are doing great work. And what is being done to stop the black market of Opium?

Oh, by the way, could someone explain to Anderson what a helmet is for? Last night, on the piece were you went in the mountains, he was wearing it on the way up but did not have it on the way down when they were alerted that it could be dangerous going down.

Seeing Anderson, Nic and Peter side by side, I was amazed to see how much talent and knowledge CNN as with its crews.

Keep up the great work and stay safe all of you.

Joanne Ranzell
Laval Quebec
Posted By Anonymous Joanne Ranzell Laval Quebec : 9:10 AM ET
As an Army Officer who provided logistical support to a Special Forces Battalion in Afghanistan in 2004, I used Jingle (because of all the decorative chains dangling from them) or Jinga (I think this where the name originated as Jinga is a large company with lots of transportation assets) to transport all classes of supply. These trucks were inspected everytime they arrived and left both by M.P.'s and soldiers who worked for me. These trucks saved lives because allowed us not use our transportation assets especially on dangerous roads. The only problem we had was Jingle truck drivers taking too long to get to their destination as the local drivers seemed to work on their own time and not Army time. So, I hired an intrepreter for the express purpose of communicating to these drivers that they needed immediatley drive to their assigned destination. The Jingle trucks were a vital asset to my job as a logistical officer and I did not lose a single one to attack or IED the entire 6 months I was in Afghanistan.
Posted By Anonymous Major Mak Stoddard, Fayetteville, NC : 9:43 AM ET
Just a worried mother here. My son is with the 10th Mountain at FOB Naray. I can't find any mention of what base you are reporting from. I am a little more than curious whether it is Naray. When he was home for R&R in June, he brought back 100's of pictures. In that batch were several of "jingle" trucks. Now I realize that he didn't want to worry us with their possibly dangerous use. I was also amazed at the pictures of weathered old men conversing with "young pups" like my son. He is an intel specialist and the pictures of him with tribal leaders really made me proud. Thanks to all at 360 for gving us a little insight into what these guys and girls are up to. Keep up the good work. And please stay safe and give every one of these brave soldiers a pat on the back and a big THANK YOU. (if you find my son...give him a hug from his mom!!!)
Posted By Anonymous Lisa Parr Harless, Charleston, WV : 2:01 PM ET
I laugh and shake my head every time I read an AC 360 blogger's comment(s) re: how our "enemies" "don't fight fair" or honorably or whatever. That is one of our biggest downfalls and weaknesses: our persistent clinging to such [wartime] irrelevant notions as "honor", etc. In war, the rules get blurred, whether we Americans like it or not. That's why we will lose and get our butts kicked in both Afghanistan AND Irag--because we choose to "fight fair". When will we learn that war is hell??? When we want to WIN, I guess... Despite my general dislike and disgust with President Bush and his administration, I always admired their willingness to "be tough" with our enemies. And you can all spare me the sappy freedoms, liberties, rights BS, thank you very much. The enemy doesn't recognize or play by our rules; thus, that's why we need to "scrap the rules" and war/fight to WIN.
Posted By Anonymous Frank, Reno, NV : 2:47 PM ET
The reasoning for the painting of these vehicles is actually for superstitous reasons, as if your Jingle truck is painted as such your journey through the mountain passes will be successful. The chimes ward off evil spirits.

I want to know how the NATO commanders failed to get the 2500 reinforcements they were asking for, stating that the ISAF forces were stung out too thin for Operation Medusa to be conducted properly? The only message I can gather from NATO is that they do not feel that victory is attainable in Helmand. Appathuri first said, "extra troops were not needed to complete the continueing offensive in Afghanistan. operation Medusa is going well and acheiving its operational objective." Then he says,"The Canadians, Brits and many others are fighting very, very hard and they're stretched thin, and they need overall support." Well, where is this overall support I ask.
Why is CNN not covering this most important development? You have Anna Nicole Smith on your front page?
if I was stuck in Firebase Tillman i would feel very betrayed. As is I still feel betrayed sitting here in my living room. If we do not want to win the war then bring our troops back before they find themselves cut off in the Northeast. Even if you do not post this maybe in the near future you could answer these questions in a report.
Posted By Anonymous tom,bettendorf,ia : 2:53 PM ET
Jingle sounds very musical & fits right in, I know what your talking about, there buses are decorated the same way lots of colorful stuff. You dont see that here. I am sure people traveling back & forth know the need of this protocol, not clear if they understand it. They are just poor villagers trying to earn a living & are being used & abused in the name of Faith.
Well you guys be careful out there. God Bless.
Posted By Anonymous Florita, Jamaica, NY : 4:56 PM ET
I returned from a deployment last year to Afghanistan. Its important for people to understand that the part of Afghanistan you are currently in is considered the most unstable out of all the areas of Afghanistan. I was in this region you are currently brodcasting from. Most of Afghanistan is much better off than this region. I appreciate what you are doing and for giving a true picture of the war. I only wish more people in the United States were able to get a first hand look at the positive things going on in Afghanistan. They would also learn to appreciate our freedoms as Americans a lot more and see why we are fighting this war. We in the United States are truly blessed for our FREEDOMS!!! and way of life.
Posted By Anonymous Marlin, Calera, Alabama : 6:19 PM ET
Thanks for covering an article about the 10th mountain division.. at the very base that my husband is at..we love him and miss him dearly...and its nice to get a look at exactly what he does.
Posted By Anonymous S.Lee, Ft. Drum, NY : 10:24 PM ET
Hello, I'm one of the infantrymen from 3rd Platoon, B Company, 2-87 INF, 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain. I appreciate your crew's visit to our FOB. We are severely outgunned here, and one might hope that your reports may inspire much-needed support from back home.

I'd like to say that the enemy is not as elusive as people think. Most of these "jingle trucks" are operated by local lumberjacks on short-haul routes to/from the bazaar. We CAN find and fight them, but we don't have the resources or manpower, and much of the reason for this is lack of support from the American people.

By the way, despite Norah's complaint below, we have more protective gear than we need - the supposed deficit is based on propaganda. What we need is ammo, air support, vehicles, more infantrymen, and of course, moral support.
Posted By Anonymous Grunt, Eastern Afghanistan : 8:50 AM ET
Go, Grunt. Speak out and I hope someone not only hears you but responds. My soldier in Iraq put it this way: Too much to do, and enough to do it. The really sad thing is that every time a soldier speaks out they are 'dealt' with, the civilians who support them are called *****, and the press goes to the Pentagon getting some cyber-space, body armor mock-up for propaganda while denying that Israel does have an effective weapon against RPGs. The Land of Free, The Home of the Brave and Washington, DC.
Posted By Anonymous linda, bella vista, ar : 12:12 PM ET
For the comment by Norah...
As a leader of infantry Marines who has already seen combat in Iraq and will be going over again early next year, I can assure you and all other readers on this page that your government is doing everything we could possibly ask for in terms of personal protection on the battlefield. My Marines have as much body armor as a fit human being can possibly carry, and we are constantly being afforded the opportunity to try out new and improved gear (we're not anything special... just your typical Marine grunt unit). I've seen wounds that would have certainly been fatal prevented by products that didn't exist (at least in wide circulation) before this conflict. So please don't lose any sleep over our gear. I and many of my Marines actually opted not to wear some of the available side body armor because it restricted our movement and added to an already heavy load (with full body armor, weapons, radio and equipment, I weigh one hundred pounds more than my typcal body weight, and my guys would search houses for hours on end wearing similar loads).
I also want to add appreciation for all the support voiced on these pages for American servicemen and women. It's felt, even from thousands of miles away.
Posted By Anonymous Paul, Jacksonville, NC : 9:39 PM ET
Norah obviously has no idea as to what she is talking about. Yet another "expert" I suppose.

We have enough armor and it works. There is nothing faulty about the helmets either, dispite what may be reported to the public. It is designed to stop shrapnel and that's it. While, in isolated incidents, it may be able to stop a small arms round, the force of impact would just about break your neck anyway. It is not designed to, nor is it going to, stop a direct shot from an AK47.

As for Norah's "genius level IQ", well her poor grammar skills certainly reflect that brain of hers.

Stick to what you know, apparently military operations or politics aren't your strong points.
Posted By Anonymous Jim, Afganistan : 10:04 PM ET
Your story reminds me of the time I spent in Kashmir, where, as the guest of a local tribesman, I was nearly killed by a dinner of rotten yak served under a portrait of Khomeini. Beware the horns of the jingle trucks, indeed.
Posted By Anonymous Jimmy J, Mound MN : 2:15 AM ET
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